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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

August 20, 2012 at 11:24 PM

Mariners now have best record since the All-Star Break

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Join me about 8:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday for my Talkin’ Baseball segment on Sports Radio KJR. I don’t think host Mitch Levy and I have ever had a complete week go by between segments in which the Mariners were undefeated.
This win tonight left the Mariners at 23-13 (.639) since the All-Star Break and that’s the best record in the American League over that span. As I wrote yesterday, the Mariners have to take care of business here against the Indians, then win something like five out of seven on the road in Chicago and Minneapolis if they want to realistically take a shot at that second wild-card in September.
Are the odds good that they can do it? No. Not at all. But the odds weren’t very good that the M’s could take 14 of 15 in games against AL bottom-feeders the past five weeks — no matter how bad those teams are — and they’ve done it anyway.
The wins all count and the Mariners need plenty of them to finish with a more respectable record and maybe make things interesting for a bit in September. They’ve done the real hard part up to this point. For me, going 7-2 the next nine games against the Indians, White Sox and Twins isn’t impossible when Felix Hernandez will be pitching two of those games.
The Mariners won 5-3 tonight and it wasnt the same as some of the other games we’ve seen them take during this stretch of capturing six in a row overall and 13 of 14 at home.
For one thing, the Indians did not beat themselves tonight. We’ve seen teams do that here this week, whether it was the Rays and Twins messing up routine bunt coverage with games on the line, or Minnesota going 2-for-22 with runners in scoring postion on Saturday and Sunday.
Today, the Indians didn’t beat themselves. They played a clean game and came through in a fifth inning scoring opportunity with two-out hits to give themselves a 3-2 lead.
The Mariners had notched only five hits by the sixth inning and this was looking like one of those games they used to lose often in 2010 and 2011. The kind of game where they aren’t going to get the 11 or 12 singles needed to score a bunch of runs.
But the M’s do have some power in their lineup now. They aren’t the Bash Bros., but guys like Michael Saunders and Eric Thames do have the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat. We’ve now seen Thames do that twice already to help tie games for Seattle, both against his former Blue Jays and now here tonight in the sixth.
Then, we saw Saunders hit his second homer of the game in the seventh.
“It obviously was a separator for us tonight,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of the home run power his team displayed. “When you have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, you can do some things in the middle and late in the ballgame that can really help you separate.
“But you have to hit first, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “You’ve got to put yourself in a position to hit first and then if you get more than that, that’s a bonus.”

Saunders now has three homers in two days and appears to be slowly pulling out of that month-long slump he’d been in since the break.
“Baseball’s a grind and it’s a process,” Saunders said. “I’m just going to believe in my process. I know I’m going to go through ups and downs obviously and try to weather them. But baseball’s a grind. The slump was long and everybody’s going to go through them during the season. Like I said, it’s a grind. You’ve just got to have a good attitude and know you’re going to get through it.”
What’s happened here the past few weeks began with the M’s playing some pretty bad teams, beating them almost by default and then carrying some of that momentum over to play some good games against much tougher teams. Then, they hit some poor teams again and continued to win both by opponents beating themselves and by the Mariners carrying the momentum over some more.
Let’s face it. No team goes 14-1 — even against struggling bottom-feeders like the Royals, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians — without a combination of some luck and some good baseball. Tonight, had the Mariners relied on luck alone, they would have lost. Instead, they played solid baseball and won a hard-fought game.
Heck, in the end, even that almost wasn’t enough. That Ezequiel Carrera double would have been a tying homer in the ninth had his bat not been sawed in half by Tom Wilhelmsen’s pitch. Sometimes, when you play well, you appease the baseball gods enough that they’ll throw a little luck your way.
Trayvon Robinson provided some of that hard-fought stuff in the field by setting a club record with 10 putouts by a left fielder, including that fourth-inning catch up against the wall.
“I’ve got a glove on, so I’ve got to contribute that way,” Robinson said. “I’m not going to get a hit every at-bat or score a run all the time. But whenever I get a chance to help the team win, I’ve got to take advantage.”
Kyle Seager also made a nice, diving snare at third and threw on to first base for a tough out to start the eighth. The Mariners played like they wanted to win tonight. They didn’t just sit back and wait for the Indians to self-destruct.
Which is good, because, as bad as Cleveland is, they played well enough to win tonight, too.
Charlie Furbush got the win by working multiple innings for the first time since coming off the disabled list. They were key innings, too, beginning with the score tied 3-3 in the seventh.
“As you (media) guys know, we’ve had some struggles here,” Furbush said. “But everyone’s pulling together now. We’re playing some pretty good baseball and it’s one of those things where we know what we have to do every day and we’re going to go out there and give it the best we’ve got.”
That’s all the Mariners can keep doing regardless of the records of the teams they play. Keep doing it, they have a chance to make this season a little more interesting a lot longer than it looked like they would back in mid-July.



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